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James Harman: Those Dangerous Gentlemens


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JH: I sing and play acoustic harp into a Shure SM58, not Beta—that's for the hump in a female voice, like anybody else. When I play amplified harmonica, I play through the same bunch of amps I've been using since the mid -'60s. I was using a tweed 1958 Fender Pro Amp through 1963. When the new Fender Vibroverb smp came out with reverb built in, I bought one and loved the amp, but hated the two ten-inch Oxford speakers that came in it. I experimented with plugging the '63 Vibroverb amp into my one fifteen-inch Jensen speaker in my '58 Pro Amp. I loved that sound!

I loved that so much I built a custom made "combo cab" with the Vibroverb amp and fifteen-inch Jensen together. Fender was also making a stock one fifteen-inch with two 6L6 [power tubes] amp called a Pro amp, in the '63 brown hide, but I had already made my little monster. See the Vibroverb had a different pre-amp, with a hotter gain stage to run that built-in reverb. I broke all those reverb pans too many times to keep using them, but I still love that amp.

Through the years I found and modified three more original 1963 Fender Vibroverb amps. Those are the only amps I've used; I have four identical amps, all alike. When I'm flying to festivals, I ask for a new reissue Fender (4 X 10") Bassman amp on my rider. I don't really like 'em, but I can cop a tone on one and the promoters all seem to be able to get them for me these days. That's easier to deal with than trying to play harp through a stinkin' Twin Reverb amp. Twins are always way too loud and clear for harp and Super Reverb amps are too trebly and bright for me. Live and outside I can make those Bassman amps work for me on a festival backline.

I have owned thirteen original late '50s Bassman amps, but never really could get into them. Nothing is as good as my modified 1963 Vibroverb with the one 1958 Pro amp speaker. In the studio I sometimes add another smaller, older amp to my one fifteen-inch Vibroverb amp, just for having control over the amount of crunch. If I want a rawer, dirtier sound on a particular song, I just add more of the small amp then for a cleaner sound, I add less or turn it off altogether; works for me.

James Harman AAJ: Do you have any current causes near and dear to you that you would like to address? This is a chance to bang your drum.

JH: Ah, not really....I'm always so busy being me that I don't get involved in too any causes. I did a few benefits for the hurricane victims, but mostly I just feel awful for them. I would love to see everybody act right and behave, so it would be nice for us all. My message to whoever is out there thinking of messing up is: If you are involved in being a jerk, just stop it right now—you're not the only one breathing here! I would also like to see everybody treat dogs well, for cryin' out loud.

AAJ: What big things can we expect from James Harman and the band?

JH: All you can expect out of me is a dozen or so new songs from time to time and seeing me in a festival near you when it works out. The rest of the time I'll be busy shopping, cooking, eating and listening to records at my house.

AAJ: We understand that you have political aspirations

JH: Not me, baby. Politics just leave me with a bad taste. I'm not apathetic, but would rather keep my leanings private and just talk about stuff I might be able to do something about.

The only 100% correct source of information on James Harman can be found at his website.

Selected Discography

James Harman, Lonesome Moon Trance (Gulf Coast/Pacific Blues, 2003)
James Harman Band & Buddies, Mo'na'kins, Please! (Extra Napkins Vol II) (Cannonball, 1999)
James Harman, Takin' Chances (Cannonball, 1998)
James Harman, Extra Napkins Vol. I (Cannonball, 1997)
James Harman, Icepick's Story (Continental, 1996)
James Harman Band, Black & White (Black Top, 1995)
James Harman Band,Cards on the Table (Black Top, 1994)
James Harman Band, Two Sides To Every Story (Black Top, 1993)
James Harman Band, Do Not Disturb (Black Top, 1991)
James Harman Band, Extra Napkins...Strictly the Blues (Rivera, 1988)
James Harman Band, Those Dangerous Gentlemens (Rhino, 1987)
James Harman Band, Strictly Live in '85 (Rivera, 1985)
James Harman Band, Thank You Baby (Enigma, 1983)
Icehouse Blues Band, Can't Get Goin" (Freewheelin', 1975)
Icehouse Blues Band, Here We Go, Baby (Continental, 1974)
Icepick James and the Rattlesnakes, This Band Just Won't Behave (ABC Dunhill, 1972)

Photo Credit
Michael Verlinden


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